A number of years ago, I began ministering to substance abusers at a rescue mission. I will never forget the shock I felt when I learned that many of the men we had worked with in the seven-month program were either high or stoned by sundown of graduation day. The following weeks revealed how truly futile my ministry efforts had been. One by one, most of our group fell back into their old life. Yes, I would have done it to help just one. However, the absence of sustained life change in most of the men after months of caring investment brought on demoralizing self-doubt.
Determined to try harder, I committed to deliver the Truth of God’s Word with as much hope and energy as I could muster. A year later, however, found me defeated, with my head down on my desk, praying to God to show me what was missing. I quickly had a strong impression that played out in my mind like a conversation with God. It started with a question: “Why don’t you weigh 300 lbs. anymore or get drunk 3 nights a week like you used to?” After a moment of confusion, the answer came. God had rewired my heart so that it no longer drove me to eat beyond the need of my body or drink to excess. That brought to mind the scripture, Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”
I understood! These men needed the same heart change God had worked in me. Instead, the hearts we checked into the program were virtually the same as the ones we checked out seven months later! Their old hearts took them back to their old lives.